Who Runs the UW? The Faculty or the Hired Administrators?

AAUP cross postRajib Dooga

This time a question that has been lurking at the back of my mind ever since first year of grad school.  I’m hoping list members can help me “scratch this old itch.” Please note that this is not about any specific action or event, and most definitely not about the proximate trigger (some regents’ vote).


Why does a community of serious scholars tolerate “the high handedness of the B of R, the upper admin and the “in” crowd who think that they own the UW?”


[Cue extended digression to explain why what follows is not really a digression.


A related question that comes to mind is, of course,


Is it the case that the charge of “high-handedness” is legitimate?  Or is it the case that in our eagerness to persuade we just throw such verbiage in for good measure?


Clearly, if the answer to the second question is “Yes, maybe we do” then I submit we should apply some variant of Goodwin’s Law (see especially the History section) to the speaker’s utterances and declare the proposition in favor of which the speaker stands to be lost.


In short, the second question is trivial.  It is the first that I believe has some substantive merit and is worthy of sober and serious contemplation.


End non-digressive digression.]


So back to the topic really at hand:


As I see it, the business of the University could not run for 30 seconds if the world-class productive faculty were to tell Deans and Department heads and those Department heads and Deans were to tell their “bosses”: “You do it. I won’t.” and “So?  Fire me.”  This subgame does have one very bad ending in which non-academics are appointed as Deans and the faculty are at perpetual war with the administration and the regents or the regents are at war with the administration which stands with the faculty.   Frankly, such open warfare is hard to envision at a flagship R1 school.  The other subgame is where one party (you know which one I have in mind) tucks tail and all is hunky dory till the next time some misguided regent or administrator tries to drive the academic train off the intellectual high road.


Corporate and indeed all institutional power is exercised in precisely this way in the rest of the “real world.”  Why does this not work in US Universities with their emphasis on shared governance?  Or is it that we who gripe now have the administration and the regents we deserve?  Because we play the wrong sub-game?  Can UW be UW without its most productive research faculty?  So who holds the power?


Food for thought, I hope.


r “What’s wrong with academia is that I shouldn’t have had to feel I had to get tenure before I could ask this publicly” d

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